A forgotten chapter in black history is to be revisited with an exhibition revealing how some of the first fighters in the struggle against slavery were once held in a British prison.
During the wars against revolutionary and Napoleonic France of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, when Britain’s black population numbered no more than 10,000, some 2,000 African-Caribbean people were held as prisoners of war in Portchester Castle in Portsmouth Harbour.
In the intervening 200 years, many POWs’ names were forgotten, but now, after years of painstaking research, Abigail Coppins, curator at English Heritage, which manages the castle, has been able to rediscover their identities.
Ms Coppins said: “To discover the identities of 2,000 African-Caribbean prisoners of war imprisoned in Portchester Castle was quite astonishing.
“At a time when the entire black population of Britain was roughly 10 – 15,000, our exhibition completely turns the tables on the views of the period. These names and this exhibition restores a forgotten chapter of black history to England’s story.
“These were not slaves, but free men and women, fighting and in some cases dying for a cause they believed in.”